Weekend reading: advice for aspiring scientists (not from me)

Olivier Levasseur's cryptogram supposedly describes directions to treasure he helped loot from a Portuguese ship in the 1700s. Just a random nugget o' knowledge, not the secret to success written in gibberish. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

For anyone considering pursuing graduate study, here is a list of six books recommended by a scholar on succeeding in academia. A couple of them are currently available online in PDF format (see links below).

Advice to a young scientist
(Sir Peter B Medawar, 1981, Basic Books)

E.O. Wilson's advice to a young scientist

The incomplete guide to the art of discovery
(Jack E Oliver, 1991, Columbia University Press)

Getting what you came for: The smart student's guide to earning a Masters or PhD
(Robert L Peters, 1997, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The PhD Process: A student's guide to graduate school in the sciences
(Dale F Bloom, et al., 1998, Oxford University Press)
Tomorrow's Professor: Preparing for academic careers in science and engineering
(Richard M Reis, 1997, IEEE Press)
(also see notes:
Scientific method for ecological research
(E David Ford, 2000, Cambridge University Press)

Upon seeing this list, I was at first struck by the apparent lack of women authors. Some of the names on the original list were abbreviated to initials, so I looked them up. When I tried to look up one of the names, the first Google hit was the Wikipedia page for a seventeenth century French pirate named Olivier Levasseur, who apparently is remembered for stashing an enormous bounty and describing its location with a cryptogram that no one has quite been able to understand, and whose story supposedly influenced Robert Louis Stevenson's writing of Treasure Island. Who knows how many words on that page amount to fact, but it sure makes for a great story.

I'm not sure how I got from there to this thesis (links to PDF) for a Masters of Landscape Architecture degree circa 1999, but there it is. The MLA candidate surveyed local landscape architects in Hawaii about their awareness and employment of native Hawaiian plant species in project designs. The survey results start on page 37 of the document. Although the survey sample size is small, it was interesting to note that:

- There was a lack of consensus on the definitions of endemic, indigenous, native, and Polynesian introduced/canoe plants

- There is state legislation requiring the use of native plants in landscape design in some cases

- Most firms are engaged in residential work

- Less than a quarter of the planting budget appears to typically be allocated to native plants

- Aesthetics followed by ecological compatibility are the primary drivers of residential design decisions whereas maintenance and aesthetics tops the list for public sector work

- One survey respondent commented "the public sector lags in accepting a more open, less manicured look"

- Another comment was "...very few native plants on the list will survive in landscape areas without proper maintenance. More research in application of native plants is needed"

- And "we want to use some endangered plants but we can't because of the regulations"

- "some natives do well in harsh conditions but are not attractive"
(how people perceive beauty could be an endless conversation)

- Included are two case studies, one a public works project, the other private residential, for comparison

weedmandan on flickr has a lot of great photos of endangered tropical flora and fauna, with an emphasis on Hawaii. more photos

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